Stevens, Wallace

United States, (1879-1955)

Frogs Eat Butterflies, Snakes Eat Frogs, Hogs Eat Snakes, Men Eat Hogs

  1. It is true that the rivers went nosing like swine,
  2. Tugging at banks, until they seemed
  3. Bland belly-sounds in somnolent troughs,
  4.  
  5. That the air was heavy with the breath of these swine,
  6. The breath of turgid summer, and
  7. Heavy with thunder’s rattapallax,
  8.  
  9. That the man who erected this cabin, planted
  10. This field, and tended it awhile,
  11. Knew not the quirks of imagery,
  12.  
  13. That the hours of his indolent, arid days,
  14. Grotesque with this nosing in banks,
  15. This somnolence and rattapallax,
  16.  
  17. Seemed to suckle themselves on his arid being,
  18. As the swine-like rivers suckled themselves
  19. While they went seaward to the sea-mouths.

© estate of Wallace Stevens
Harmonium. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1923.

Editor’s Note:

“Rattapallax” was Wallace Stevens’ onomatopoetic word for the sound of thunder.

About the Poet

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), US poet and attorney. Though now considered one of the major American poets of the 20th century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death.

Perhaps more than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. [DES-6/03]

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